RKO’s Jalna (1935) Inspires Craving for More Mazo de la Roche

What’s a Jalna? I wondered, feeling quite stupid later when I discovered that it was the the first of a series of sixteen novels that managed to sell over 11 million copies worldwide.

RKOs Jalna 1935

The books were written by someone named Mazo de la Roche. Ah, that rang a bell!

Of course! That was the strange foreign-looking name I used to see on magazine covers all the time back when I dealt more heavily in old magazines. Beyond that point of reference I reverted to my old stupefied saying of youth, back when I first heard of a previously unknown personality: Never hoid of him.

Well him was a her. A prolific and mysterious her of Canadian origin though seemingly better known in foreign lands even during her own lifetime.

Mazo de la Roche, 1927

Mazo de la Roche, 1927

Born January 15, 1879 in Newmarket, Ontario, Canada, only child Mazo de la Roche was often on the move with her parents while growing up. The lonely girl invented stories to amuse herself and supposedly found inspiration for what would be her most memorable and successful work when one of the Roche family stops brought them to the home of a wealthy man who farmed as a hobby.

Her first story was published by Munsey’s in 1902 but she didn’t begin a serious writing career until after her father’s death. Her first novel was Possession (1923), her second Delight (1926), but it was her third that would make her fortune and legacy.

She submitted Jalna to the Atlantic Monthly where it won their $10,000 Award along with serialized publication beginning in the June 1927 issue. The title was the name of the Whiteoak family estate which was itself named after a city in India where the family patriarch had served in the British army.

Atlantic Monthly June 1927

Atlantic Monthly, June 1927

The Captain was long dead by the time de la Roche’s story began, but his wife, Adeline, still lorded over Jalna at age 99 at the open of the first of the stories.

Adeline, who according her the respect any 99-year-old deserves I shall now refer to as Gran, was responsible for starting my Jalna kick. It was while digging up info about character actress Jessie Ralph, who I knew best as the old lady always so nice to Freddie Bartholomew as Peggotty in David Copperfield (1935) and the apple woman in Little Lord Fauntleroy (1936), that I ran into this strange word Jalna enough times to realize it was not a misprint.

The then 70-year-old Ralph was earning rave reviews for playing Gran in the 1935 RKO release of the strange name. Directed by John Cromwell and starring his wife at that time, Kay Johnson (together the parents of actor James Cromwell), Jalna boasted an interesting cast that lacked big names but ran quite deep.

Jessie Ralph in Jalna

Jessie Ralph nodded off as Gran

Ralph’s Gran headed the screen family with surviving children Nicholas and Ernest appearing quite elderly in their own right as portrayed by C. Aubrey Smith and Halliwell Hobbes.

Gran’s youngest, Philip Whiteoaks, was deceased, but with the elderly uncles each childless the younger Whiteoaks all belonged to the late Philip. By his first wife came Renny, now head of the estate, played by Ian Hunter, with Broadway's Peggy Wood as Renny’s older sister, Meg. Also found at the Whiteoaks estate were the four children born of Philip’s second marriage, by order of their age: David Manners as Eden, Theodore Newton as Piers, George Offerman, Jr. As Finch and Clifford Severn as Wakefield.

Whiteoak Family Tree

The Whiteoak family tree found inside my Fawcett paperback edition of Jalna. Click to enlarge.

The movie opens with Gran's dinner plate passed around the Whiteoaks dinner table during which time we are aided in keeping the entire clan straight through an inventive series of credits naming each actor and character they play. Each of them dishes out some grub for Gran, says a few words and passes the plate on to their right as it eventually makes its way back around to Gran.

Ian Hunter in Jalna

The actors speak throughout the opening credits. Up first, Ian Hunter as Renny Whiteoaks.

All those above except Eden (Manners) are present. He bursts in during dinner to announce that his book of poems has been accepted for publication. The farming family doesn’t seem to care much for Eden’s poetic pursuits, all except old Uncle Ernest (Hobbes), who fosters literary ambitions himself. Family head Renny (Hunter) is not agreeable to Eden’s idea of running off to New York to meet with his publisher and soak up the writer’s life.

But Eden has his way, as we suspect he often does, and is soon exchanging pleasantries with publisher's assistant Alayne Archer (Kay Johnson) who had been personally responsible for saving his work from the slush pile. Before we can get ourselves too settled in to the New York surroundings Eden and Alayne fall in love and return to Jalna as husband and wife.

David Manners and Kay Johnson

David Manners and Kay Johnson

As the Whiteoaks happily celebrate the arrival of the new bride to Jalna their insulated world is shattered by the arrival of a second bride. Eden’s younger brother Piers (Newton) has married neighbor girl Pheasant (Molly Lamont) causing upset to the entire family, but especially half-sister Meg (Wood).

Meg finds herself an old maid by virtue of a traumatizing break-up with neighbor Maurice Vaughn (Nigel Bruce) many years ago. The split came after Maurice was presented with a basket containing his child born out of wedlock by another woman. That child was Pheasant.

Nigel Bruce, Molly Lamont and Theodore Newton

Nigel Bruce, Molly Lamont and Theodore Newton

The Whiteoaks tear into Piers and Pheasant, horrifying newcomer Alayne who rises to Pheasant’s defense. Husband Eden is already beginning to show his true colors, finding the entire scene somewhat entertaining and very amusing. Alayne’s scolding is interrupted by the return of Renny (Hunter), who quiets everyone with a scolding, including Eden’s new bride. Still, it is hard not to notice some sparks between the forceful Renny and strong willed Alayne.

Barely settled at Jalna Alayne finds herself in love with her husband’s older half-brother. Renny can’t keep away from her either but they manage to control themselves for Eden’s sake. Eden is quickly exposed as a bit of a scoundrel, shooing his wife away so he can pretend to compose poetry all the while becoming more and more aggressive in his pursuit of Pier’s new wife, Pheasant.


Gran is still sleeping. Her sons, played by Halliwell Hobbes and C. Aubrey Smith stand behind her and grandson Wakefield (Clifford Severn) beside her.

While the peppermint popping Jessie Ralph lords over her every scene and is a total delight as the cranky but still competent 99-year-old Gran, I was most especially impressed by two actors who I rarely have anything nice to say about.

Well, Ian Hunter has grown on me. I used to find him as bland as a hundred other interchangeable actors who sucked up to more memorable leading ladies or, in Hunter’s case, played forgettable fathers. But as Jalna’s male lead, head of the Whiteoaks family, Hunter brings an impressive range of emotion to his role and emerges as the character we root for more than any other.

Ian Hunter in Jalna

Ian Hunter tells a story

Hardworking and hard-headed Renny, finds his heart softened by Alayne, though he’s also sympathetic father figure to Wakefield (Severn), the youngest of the orphaned generation of Whiteoaks children. Renny stands no nonsense from his other brothers, especially head in the clouds Eden. He treats his elders with respect, though at the same time they know that despite his youth Renny is true head of the family.

I’m usually very hard on David Manners, but I liked him in Jalna for all the reasons I usually dislike him in everything else.

David Manners in Jalna

David Manners spins a yarn at Christmas

Often cast as a romantic leading man Manners often comes off to me as whiny and immature, not at all dashing, but a little boy seeming more inconvenienced than challenged by whatever hardships screenwriters toss his way.

Manners is especially frustrating because I believe he had the presence of a star, always heightening my expectations, but with performances that seem to fall short for me.

Finally all those negative traits I always seem to find in Manners' characters fit him as Eden Whiteoaks! Beyond being so hard for me to root for in those earlier roles I also find Manners terrible at delivering his lines, often sounding like someone reading them off a page without any idea of the emotion they’re supposed to suggest. While I still had an issue with that in Jalna his Eden is so petulant and full of himself that I didn’t mind it nearly as much. Despite the character emerging as the Whiteoaks black sheep I found myself, for once, pulling for Manners, hoping his Eden would get his act together and find a happy reward. But I won’t spoil that for you.

David Manners in Jalna

Eden (David Manners) delights in an uncomfortable scene. Kay Johnson has her back to us.

When Jalna released in 1935 Mazo de la Roche had just completed her fifth novel in the series, Young Renny. The previous four books had moved forward with the Whiteoaks saga while Young Renny would be the first to dip back in time to tell a story of Jalna previous to the original novel. There would be eleven more books in the series through 1960 with the eventual time span covered ranging one hundred years, 1853-1953.

While each novel is supposed to be able to stand alone, I've listed them below in chronological order by the date each story begins. That fictional date is followed by the original publication date in parenthesis along with what number the book was as de la Roche wrote them. Thus Morning at Jalna, the second novel in the series as it unfolds was actually the final book (#16) in de la Roche's series published in 1960.

  • Building of Jalna, 1853 (1944 - #9)
  • Morning at Jalna, 1863 (1960 #16)
  • Mary Wakefield, 1894 (1949 - #11)
  • Young Renny, 1906 (1935 - #5)
  • Whiteoak Heritage, 1918 (1940 - #7)
  • Whiteoak Brothers, 1923 (1953 - #13)
  • Jalna, 1924 (1927 - #1)
  • Whiteoaks of Jalna, 1926 (1929 - #2)
  • Finch's Fortune, 1929 (1932 - #3)
  • The Master of Jalna, 1931 (1933 - #4)
  • Whiteoak Harvest, 1934 (1936 - #6)
  • Wakefield's Course, 1939 (1941 - #8)
  • Return to Jalna, 1943 (1946 - #10)
  • Renny's Daughter, 1948 (1951 - #12)
  • Variable Winds at Jalna, 1948 (1954 - #14)
  • Centenary at Jalna, 1953 (1958 - #15)

My own Jalna experience is largely limited to the enjoyable 1935 movie and now the first fifty plus pages of the original book in the series, Jalna. From what I can tell so far this story is mostly told through the eyes of the youngest Whiteoak, Wakefield, who is really only afforded one such scene in the movie as he excitedly moves from bedroom to bedroom greeting his elders on the morning of Alayne’s arrival.

Whiteoaks novels

Copies of a few of the Whiteoaks novels I picked up

I picked up six books from the series in one fell swoop off of eBay. As always when dealing with a collection the collector at heart emerged in me and I required matching copies. I had the foresight to imagine that the earliest hardcover editions of the books would probably price me out of the market, especially had I desired dust jackets, and so I went the mass market paperback route. Now I’ve just got to find the other ten titles in Fawcett editions!

I am happy that my entrance to Mazo de la Roche’s world came through the 1935 movie. I thoroughly enjoyed it and was miffed by the low IMDb rating until I came to discover the story behind the source material. I may never have heard of Jalna before Jessie Ralph’s biography brought it to my attention, but I bet most of those few folks rating it over there had!

Jessie Ralph in Jalna

She's awake! And upset. Jessie Ralph as Gran.

After I found the books and learned a little more about the series it immediately called the Forsyte Saga to mind. Especially since I had spent a good portion of 2012 familiarizing myself with that famed ‘60s BBC miniseries. In the case of Jalna I wondered at there being 16 books yet only one movie. Didn’t seem to speak well of the books.

Then I found that a television series was attempted and digging back through period articles it turns out that the 1972 Canadian Broadcasting Corporation series was inspired by the success of the Forsytes and the BBC’s succeeding forays into historical drama. Reading about the series, The Whiteoaks of Jalna, also made it easier to accept my own earlier ignorance of both stories and author.

Jalna newspaper ad

Jalna advertised in the Salt Lake Tribune, August 14, 1935

“At a time when her popularity is beginning to wane, de la Roche is being re-introduced to her justifiable role as one of Canada’s greatest novelists. Ignored by critics and adored by an avid public …”

While the CBC series was picked up by Thames TV for broadcast in Great Britain it appears that the true goal of The Whiteoaks of Jalna was American network money that never came. The Thames sale was contingent upon there being 26 episodes of The Whiteoaks of Jalna, but the series’ cancellation was announced after the 12th episode with only the 13th and final episode remaining to air. CBC’s director of programming attributed the cancellation to “audience reaction, overseas sales and production difficulties caused by a long strike by the CBC technicians.”

Nancy Price 1938 Ogdens Tobacco Card

Nancy Price is shown as Gran, with Boney on her shoulder, on this 1938 Ogden's brand tobacco card.

The only other filmed English language version of Jalna appears to be a 1951 BBC program starring Nancy Price. Price had played Gran in a Whiteoaks play adapted by de la Roche herself from her second novel in the series, Whiteoaks of Jalna. It ran for two years in London beginning in 1936 before coming to America where Ethel Barrymore took over the role on Broadway in 1938. Presumably the 1951 BBC Whiteoaks starring Price was a filmed version of the play she had starred in fifteen years earlier.

Mazo de la Roche died in 1961, age 82. Her life was largely a mystery with her obituary in the Ottawa Citizen quoting a Toronto writer who had summed up her legacy well in remarking, “the most casual reader in Bucharest knew almost as much about her as her neighbors in Forest Hill.” The Edmonton Journal obit punctuated itself with reference to de la Roche's “reserved and aloof life.”

An attempt to shed some light on the life of de la Roche came just last year as Maya Gallus of Red Queen Productions brought her story to the screen in the documentary The Mystery of Mazo de la Roche (2012). But the mystery largely remains as the very private de la Roche had intended.

While we may never know more about Mazo de la Roche she left behind an entire world in her series of 16 novels (and she did indeed write more than the Jalna series as well).

Jalna ad from Film Weekly

This eye catching two-page spread advertising JALNA appeared in a 1935 edition of Film Weekly Magazine

At the time of the 1972 CBC series Canadian journalist Bill Smiley reflected upon his own fondness for the Jalna stories:

“Our pioneer ancestors were about as much like the Whiteoaks as Pierre Trudeau is like me. And Jalna is about as real in rural 19th-century Canada as Camelot was in the barbaric dark ages. But this is part of the charm. They’re escape novels, in the best sense of the word.”

I’ll be honest. Through 78 minutes of film and just 50-plus pages of reading I don’t find myself transported to Canada or any specific place. I do find myself wrapped up in the Whiteoaks family with a yearning to learn more about how its parts work and a curiosity to meet Whiteoaks of both earlier and later generations than those I now know.

Ian Hunter and Peggy Wood

Ian Hunter and Peggy Wood

The movie worked for me. It sold Mazo de la Roche books. Even if in my case they were used books.

Not having read enough to give any meaningful perspective as a de la Roche reader I would still suggest that you take my route if at all possible and find the 1935 RKO movie first. If the world that Mazo de la Roche created is as large as what I now suspect then I would imagine this enjoyable little movie is going to pale in comparison for anyone coming to it after the books.

Postscript: The Facebook page for The Mystery of Mazo de la Roche points to a newspaper article mentioning a Whiteoaks remake (rebirth?) in the works at Canada’s Global Television.

Molly Lamont and David Manners

Busted! Molly Lamont and David Manners

Jalna has never had a video release, at least here in the United States. I viewed it on Turner Classic Movies which is also where all of my screen captures came from. Check the top of TCM's Jalna page for next scheduled air date (none as I write this).


  • ”Creator of the ‘Jalna’ Series.” Ottawa Citizen 13 Jul 1961: 6. Google News. Web. 14 Jan 2013.
  • ”’Jalna’ Gets the Axe.” Winnipeg Free Press 25 May 1972: 19. NewspaperArchive. Web. 15 Jan 2013.
  • Kapica, Jack. Montreal Gazette 22 Jan 1972: 43. Google News. Web. 14 Jan 2013.
  • Smiley, Bill. “Memories of the Jalna Book.” Mercury-Advance 26 Jan 1972: A2. Google News. Web. 14 Jan 2013.
  • ”Week’s Summary Of World News.” Edmonton Journal 15 Jul 1961: 21. Google News. Web. 14 Jan 2013.
Ian Hunter and Kay Johnson

Ian Hunter and Kay Johnson


  1. says

    Thanks for this – I’ve never seen the movie, but de la Roche was a favorite writer of my grandmothers’ and as a child I read and enjoyed most of the Jalna books. I’ve long wondered if they’d hold up to rereading so many years later. Perhaps I’ll track down the Jessie Ralph version and see if that whets my appetite!

    • says

      Thanks for commenting Muscato – I really thought I was writing this one for myself!

      The movie is a tough find, I happened to luck into it on TCM and record it when I had no idea what it was (see opening paragraphs). Then I hit upon that Jessie Ralph research and much to my surprise I discovered I had it! Score!

      I’m enjoying the first book so far, it’s a quickish read and having the movie in my pocket makes it easier to keep all of these family members straight. I really do hope to get to them all eventually, or at least the half dozen I now have on hand.

      Thanks again, makes me feel good that this one did actually connect with somebody.

  2. says

    I have read all of the Jalna books. Mazo de la Roche’s stories and writing are the stuff of genius. The richness of the books could never adequately be portrayed in a movie: movies are about action, books are about feeling and description; hence the movie’s emphasis on the affairs, when there is so much more behind them, and so many, many more stories running through all of the books. Cannot recommend them highly enough. Thanks for the article.

    • says

      Thanks for your comment. So happy that you enjoyed the article, especially as a fan of the books. I thought the movie did a very good job, in sparse time, of presenting a series of unique characters, each of whom stay with you. You’re right, of course, there’s just too much to translate across 80 minutes or so of film, but JALNA was a nice effort. I would love to be able to see the ’70s mini-series as I bet that format would be able to capture so much more. Though if I ever did catch it I’m sure I’d be mightily disappointed by the premature ending. Thanks again!

  3. Claudia says

    My aunt and I are avid fans and she did try to watch the CBC series. She said it was awful—the characters were almost unrecognizable and the whole story was presented as flashbacks from 1970s Canada. I’ve since read that the series creators were much more interested in promoting their politics than in telling a good story, and it showed. I’d still like to see it though—and my ultimate fantasy is to produce the series for television myself—only a dedicated fan should be allowed to touch it!

    The RKO movie was fun to watch but it, too, strayed far, far from the original book; I simply can’t imagine Meg Whiteoak polishing off a bottle of rum in her bedroom with her ex-fiance, and scenes in which the shy and rather prim Alayne belts out drinking songs was also hard to take. But you’re right about David Manners—he was perfection in the role of Eden, that charming rat!

    • says

      That’s disappointing, Claudia, sorry to hear it about the CBC series.

      I’ve found with both this and Galsworthy’s Forsytes I was better off finding the movies before the books (or the movie before the mini-series in the case of the Forsytes). Adaptations can be truly awful, so it’s nice to be able to enjoy the movie first and then discover later that the books are even better, rather than loving the books and later hating a movie that the non-fan may enjoy.

      Of course, this strategy of mine only works so many years after the fact.

      Speaking of the Forsytes, that’s exactly the treatment Jalna needs and so I wish you luck on your ultimate fantasy. With a multi-volume saga like this you really hope someone who’s devoured it all winds up doing the job.

      Glad you liked Manners! He’s not someone I usually enjoy, but thought he was near perfect here.

  4. Undine says

    Until I came across this post, I had no idea there was a “Jalna” movie. I’m now really curious to see it for myself.

    I read all the novels when I was a kid. For a time, I was practically obsessed by them. When I was older, I began re-reading them, and I was amazed how psychologically perverse they could be, particularly the later books. (The ending of the last–chronologically speaking–novel, where young Adeline dumps her brand-new husband in favor of her father, Renny, has to be read to be believed!) I often found myself wondering “How the heck did de la Roche get away with some of this stuff?”

    The books are incredibly readable and weirdly compelling, but seen from an adult perspective, they really began to give me the creeps. I wonder if anyone else had that reaction?

    • Claudia says

      What amazes me about the series is how well an introverted only child managed to capture the dynamics of a large family—and how a lesbian could write so knowingly about the dynamics between husband and wife. I’m thinking of Renny and Alayne here, the only couple that she explores in great depth. I wondered about this for years until I saw a photo of Mazo and Caroline and there they were: tall, thin, intense Renny (Mazo) and small, lovely, prim Alayne (Caroline).

      But you are right: Mazo went way overboard with the father-daughter relationship between Renny and Adeline. The last book in the series feels like a fever dream, with Dennis running amok, a mother dying in childbirth, Finch clearly leaving Earth orbit and Adeline actually agreeing to marry her dopey younger cousin. Well, Mazo was well on in years by that time and had been writing about the Whiteoaks for decades. Maybe she was sick of the whole clan and felt like punishing them a little for the way they took over her life!

      It’s my understanding that she had begun yet another Jalna book at the time of her death. Wouldn’t you love to get your hands on that!

      • says

        Regardless of her sexual orientation, what Mazo de la Roche understood all too well was love and longing. She was particularly adept at describing the drama and heartache of star crossed lovers. In her personal life, of which she revealed very little, she was very frank that she had a greater affinity with her male characters, both the swashbuckling Renny Whiteoak and, even more so, the sensitive artist Finch Whiteoak. Interestingly, her personal rejection of the conventions of femininity and the limited choices available to women at the time enabled her to become a pioneering female author and take her place “at the table”, so to speak, alongside the male writers. And, of course, her life partner, Caroline Clement (the model for Alayne Archer) made it possible for her to be so prolific and achieve the extraordinary fame that she achieved. Her story continues is a modern one, utterly relevant today.

        • Claudia says

          “And, of course, her life partner, Caroline Clement (the model for Alayne Archer)…”

          Did you find good evidence that Alayne was based on Caroline? If so, I’d love to know about it. My aunt has always complained that she can’t understand why someone like Renny would be interested in someone like Alayne. I felt it was because Alayne was a steadying influence, supporting him in most things while still able to look at some of his wilder projects with a critical eye, which he needed—just as Mazo’s writing life would have needed those traits from Caroline. It would be awesome to share this tidbit with her!

  5. says

    Enjoyed your post. As the director and writer of the documentary, The Mystery of Mazo de la Roche, it’s a pleasure to see people rediscovering her work. She was a pioneering woman writer with few peers at that level of fame (Lucy Maude Montgomery comes to mind, but she was working in the genre of young adult fiction whereas Mazo was tackling considerably more mature subject matter) and she continues to be one of the most successful Canadian authors of all time.

    • says

      Maya, thanks so much for stopping by my post and taking part in the comments. I’ll be honest, I was not familiar with Mazo before I found this old movie, which I seemed to record off of TCM by pure luck alone! I enjoyed the film enough to Google the author and was delighted to discover that this single little ’30s movie actually had a much larger world behind it. Congratulations on your documentary and thank you again for stopping by this page.

  6. diane byrnes says

    Can’t say I’ve read any of the books but I did enjoy the movie.
    Kay Johnson is just perfection as usual but as you say the
    whole ensemble may have found some of their better roles in this movie.
    I am also in agreement – David Manners (I think he was Canadian)
    would have to be one of the blandest of leading men but not when
    he was playing less than stellar characters. I’m thinking of his Piers
    and he also had a lead in “Crooner” (1932) about a singer who lets
    fame go to his head.

    • says

      Hi Diane,

      Yup, Manners was Canadian. He’s an actor that gives me a hard time. For years I couldn’t stand him because of Dracula and The Mummy, each ingrained since early childhood. I thought he was terrible in The Miracle Woman, which I otherwise love all things about.

      From there I was never in a very receptive mood. There came a point where I at least became comfortable with him, he was a very familiar presence in less known titles I watched during one of those fun strings of coincidence where the same actor just keeps showing up in everything movie you put on.

      I’m less hostile now. I also enjoyed him in The Mystery of Edwin Drood, which I did not see until after Jalna. I’ve come to the conclusion that I may have liked him better if he didn’t suddenly retire shortly after. While I couldn’t get behind him in many of his earlier, entirely sympathetic roles, he grew on me playing more complicated characters of varying shades. Or perhaps he just figured out how to get himself out of that single gear he seemed to be stuck in earlier.

      Now I watch everything he does with greater interest, but am forced to admit that most of the time he still doesn’t do a lot for me.


  7. Anonymous says

    I enjoyed all the Jalna Books and own three I found in a used book sale yrs ago. I was really annoyed to see there was a movie and I have been unable to view. I hope their is a next time I’m 80 and perhaps time is fleeting.

  8. etienne says

    i hope you can help.
    i read a series of books some 20 years ago which may well be part of the Jalna saga but i have just two vivid episodes in mind, which are not enough to confirm the hunch of my librairian.
    one of those episodes is of a very poor family living in a shack. at some point, the mother after taking contraceptive pills in a unorderly manner delivers a stillborn child with no sex. the scene at the school where the teacher asks one of the daughters whether she got a sister or brother and she answers she doesn’t know is very tragic.
    the other episode is the employment of a young girl, maybe the same girl from the episode above, by a very rich family as a housemaid who comes very close to getting married to her employer until she finds out he actually is her grandfather – or great-uncle.
    that is very little material i know but who knows, you may have the answer!

    thank you very much in advance.


    • Claudia says

      No. I’ve read all the books at least twice and nothing like that happens in the Jalna series. Good luck finding the source—it’s the kind of thing that would drive me nuts trying to figure it out!

        • Marion Vermeersch says

          just happened across this site and the name Jalna caught my eye. How I loved all those books when I was young, along with the Lanny Budd series by Upton Sinclair – my two top favourite series both of which were in our house. Someday, if I can find them, I’m now going to read them again. I didn’t know there was a movie but that would be nice to see, too.
          Thanks, and hope you all have a Merry Christmas!

          • says

            Marion, the movie plays every year or two on Turner Classic Movies in the US (though I’d love to see a DVD release!). I hope you get to catch it next time it plays. And Merry Christmas to you as well!

  9. says

    I am a fan of David Manners since I watched him in A Miracle Woman-most people did like him in that, so i was surprised that someone said he thought Mr. Manners was terrible in that flick…:) I didnt like him at all and I liked him very much in Dracula (depends on a scene), I liked him in Mummy, I really liked him in Three Broadway Girls. His best performance though was in THE PERFECT CLUE (I think it he was perfect)-watch that flick on you tube-you will think he was awesome, you cant miss with that. In Death Kiss, he was so-so…I also liked him in Man Wanted…

    • says

      Al, Manners has been growing on me every since the time of this post.

      Jalna was the first movie that I was really able to tolerate him in, followed by Mystery of Edwin Drood, not coincidentally, two titles where he’s a bit darker than he was in many of his earlier movies. He’s more tolerable to me now in movies like Man Wanted and even Dracula and The Mummy, though he’s still not my favorite aspect of any of those.

      I still can’t stand him in The Miracle Woman, which is a shame because it’s otherwise one of my favorite Stanwyck pre-Codes. Maybe it will grow on me in time as the others are beginning to. Prior to Jalna I really found him insufferable, and his portrayals never rang true for me. That idea is kind of peeling itself back as what I used to see as poor acting is beginning to reveal itself as a sensitivity that used to fly over my head. Sometimes (like Miracle Woman!) I still think it’s bad acting, but not as often as I used to.

      I enjoyed him in The Last Flight also. I wrote about that one somewhat recently and my feelings about him there still generally hold:

      David Manners continues to win me over. I’ve come to accept him as being very good at portraying damaged, somewhat fragile characters like Shep. His attachment to Cary, who saved his life, is touching, as is the bond he forms with Nikki as he unobtrusively and selflessly helps pair his friends, old and new. Manners is still prone to poor line delivery and sometimes just tries so hard that his work looks forced, but he also gets off several good lines in this one, including that short exchange with Cary about getting tight. His final scene is especially good.

      So, I’m coming around some, definitely! Thanks for your recommendation of The Perfect Clue, I’ll try to give it a look!

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